Posts Tagged ‘indt501’

Teaching with Tumblr

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

This week we learned about using different kinds of technology to create virtual experiences for students.  Among the ideas explored were mobile apps and exploring virtual worlds.  We also thought about good versus bad uses of technology in the classroom, which remains an important topic as new teachers enter classrooms full of digital natives.

When it comes to using technology, namely cellphones, in the classroom, there are always pros and cons.  Some of the downsides of allowing cellphones in the classroom is that phones often act as distractions.  When I was in high school, students were always hiding phones in their laps or were texting behind their backpacks.  The fifth grade classroom at my old grade school now has a cellphone bin, where students drop off their cellphones at the beginning of the day.  In my practicum classroom last year, students were constantly playing with their smartphones.  It was difficult for the teacher to manage the classroom and get the students to put the phones away.

Another downside to using mobile apps is that it assumes that all students have smartphones.  Not all students are going to be able to download apps on their phones, and they may not be able to get Internet on them.  Just like teachers have to consider that not all students will have access to computers and Internet outside of school, we also have to consider that students may not be able to use mobile apps.

However, there are definitely advantages to using virtual technology and mobile apps.  Virtual technology, such as Storybricks, can allow students to create their own visual stories.  While students should be able to write their own stories, being able to illustrate and flesh out their story visually can help engage students and add a new level of meaning to their story that could not necessarily be expressed with words.  As stated in a report to Congress, “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks,” “For children and teens, virtual worlds offer educational, social, and creative opportunities.  For example, educators are using these spaces to provide students with hands-on experiential learning opportunities.” These opportunities can pique students’ interests and give them more freedom of creativity when it comes to their schoolwork.

Similarly, mobile apps can let students upload material whenever they want, as long as they have a smartphone on them.  If a student finds something in their research online that could be of interest to the class or could be used for a project, they can save it to an online profile like Tumblr.  Tumblr would be an interesting blogging experience for students, since many of them may already have Tumblrs or are familiar with the site.  I also think that Tumblr can be a means of connecting students as a class.  Students could upload content to a classroom profile for their classmates to work with.  Teachers can also benefit from communicating through Tumblr or other online profiles, uploading content-specific material that teachers in different subjects can look at.

An example of a Tumblr account that I came across recently is “WhatShouldWeCallEducators,” whose creator uploads gifs with captions related to issues that teachers come across daily.

It’s often humorous, but I wouldn’t show it to students since we don’t want them to feel as though they are made fun of.  However, this is just one example of how a Tumblr could create solidarity among teachers, and among students.


Federal Trade Commission. Virtual world & kids: Mapping the risks. Retrieved at

Mini-Projects 2: Around the World

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

This week the mini-projects seemed to focus on taking us out of the classroom and into the world.  Among the choices were timelines, Google Treks, and Lit Trips.  I worked with all three of these choices to come up with a way to bring a piece of literature to life for students.

The first project I completed was a timeline, which I created on a website called TimeToast.  This website allows users to create any kind of timeline they would like, with the option of adding text and photos.  I chose Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days for my timeline because the story is basically an itinerary that the characters try (and sometimes fail) to follow.  A timeline would be a good way to illustrate to students the passage of time for books like this, which can be very confusing when the characters are moving to different areas quickly.  The timeline also acts as a deadline.  The main character has to return to London after exactly 80 days, and by putting that date on the timeline, students can visualize the amount of time the characters have to work with.  Here is my timeline below:

timeline link

Screenshot of Timeline linked to online profile.

The second project was a Google Earth Lit Trip of Around the World in 80 Days.  This project was much more difficult for me.  I was able to place landmarks where the characters went in the novel, like London or Bombay, but I couldn’t figure out how to link them.  With some help from Dr. Coffman, I was able to finally get the landmarks to link together, forming paths in between.  However, while I was working on Google Earth, I also tried to make a Google Trek to see if I could create paths more easily.  Here are both projects (still works in progress) below:

Screenshot of Google Trek


Path from London to Suez

Path from London to Suez

Both of these projects could be very important in an English classroom.  Sometimes it can be difficult for students to visualize the paths that the characters take in the story.  Another good example of a novel that I could do a Trek or Lit Trip for would be Night by Elie Wiesel.  In this book, characters are moved from one concentration camp to another throughout Europe during World War II.  A Lit Trip could show students not only the places that these prisoners were taken to, but how far these people had to walk during Death Marches.  This serves to call attention to themes like human suffering, and give students emotional relevance to the text.

Both of these activities could be useful in the classroom as a means of helping students visualize texts.  Treks or Lit Trips and timelines help make texts much more accessible because students are able to see a journey of a character or the places they went and when.  Both projects would give context on an emotional, historical, political, and geographical level.


The Writing on the Wall: Using Wallwisher in the Classroom

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

I have to admit, when I first took a look at Wallwisher, a website that allows you to build a “wall” and attach electronic sticky notes to it, I was a little skeptical.  It seemed like the sticky notes were all over the place and that most comments end up getting covered up by newer posts.  How do we weed through to find the older posts and keep track of them?  Some posts didn’t have names or tags, either.  So how can we use this tool in the classroom effectively and efficiently?

Funnily enough, all the things I didn’t initially like about Wallwisher, I ended up liking.  I like the colors and the vibrancy of the posts, which are sure to catch students’ eyes easily.  Sticky notes are also a more interesting means of communication.  We use physical sticky notes all the time to remind ourselves of events or assignments, so why not have an electronic copy of those notes that we can access from any computer?  Unlike physical stickies, Wallwisher notes don’t get lost, and are easy to sift through.  They are also grouped by topic, which allows you to organize your thoughts more easily.

Wallwisher has plenty of uses in the classroom.  Student groups can each make their own project wall that illustrates their planning process for the teacher.  It’s a better form of assessment than asking the students to turn in physical notes, which they can easily “bs” or say got lost.  Students can also use the wall to give feedback to others’ projects or to the teacher.  The teacher can also post sticky notes to give students advice on their projects.

The most important function in my opinion is that Wallwisher illustrates how each student contributed to the project and what steps the groups took to complete their work.  Separate walls can show brainstorming, outlining, and finally, bringing all of the information together into one assignment.

I also agree with Dr. Coffman’s (2013) suggestion: “Visual appeal, the colors, and the freedom to move things around that makes it a lot less daunting than jotting things down in Word.”  While GoogleDocs are easy to use, they are just blank, white documents that students have to contribute to.  The sticky notes are short and concise, so that students have to think about what they want to put up on the wall.  When students label the notes with their names, it is easier for the teacher to figure out who made what contribution, while this can be a bit of a hassle in a GoogleDoc.  Wallwisher is a fun, easy way to get students thinking, writing, and collaborating without too much pressure.

I would definitely use this in my future English classroom, where students can use the walls to brainstorm ideas, structure their papers, and give feedback to their peers.  Here is my own wall that I created for class.  This would be a topic I would use to get to know my students!  Add to it if you like!


Coffman, T. (2013). Week 7 reflection blog post: Shared sticky notes. Unpublished raw data, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA, , Available from Canvas. Retrieved from

Week 5: Creating a Video

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

This week, we focused on creating a curricular music video.  The website Animoto was used to make a short, minute-ish long video that introduced a topic to the class.  The topic had to be aligned with SOL standards, and because my content area is English, I wanted to focus on literature for my video.

Animoto was surprisingly easy to use.  If you sign up as an educator, you get free access to about a dozen themes, and photos and videos can be inserted into these themes and set to music.  One theme that looked interesting to me was the Inferno theme, which has yellow and orange fire that seems to spiral.  The photos you put into this theme also appear to burn up as they are being shown.  Going off of the Inferno theme, I decided to base my music video on Dante’s Inferno.

Back in high school, I had an English teacher who read Dante’s Inferno with us and had us break into groups to create our own levels of Hell.  She asked us to reflect on our own lives and choose sins that we believed should be punished and put them in order.  The sins we thought were worse would be at the bottom, with the less grave sins focused at the top.  I went to Catholic school, so we had plenty of background reflecting on punishment and redemption.

I decided to incorporate this activity into my video.  I thought that the video should not just be an introduction to the topic, but a means of moving into a lesson or activity.  The video needs a purpose besides piquing students’ interests.  Once the students’ attention is caught with the video, they need to get used to moving onto the next step and think critically about what they are learning.  Here is my video below:


I think that Animoto and curricular music videos are a great way to get students interested in a topic.  English teachers especially can benefit because we want to get students interested in what they are about to read or are already reading, and sometimes it helps to give students a visual.  Students could also make their own 30-second videos as a project.  These videos would be helpful in introducing a unit, but maybe not just one lesson.  The video can introduce a longer text or an author that students are about to come across.  I would definitely use it for unit plans, but not every day so that they don’t lose their luster.

Networking and Creating

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

This week we worked on a personal learning network, which involves creating several different kinds of profiles, such as Twitter or Delicious.  I already had a Twitter account, which I’d had to get for another college course.  We only used it so that we could communicate as a class when we had movie showings.  That was pretty cool, but I never used it afterwards.  I’m glad I kept it for this class!

I already have a LinkedIn account as well, but I need to expand it.  I have all my information on that profile, but I haven’t been very good about reaching out to other people.  I’m looking forward to trying this out because the need to get a job is getting closer and closer as I start my graduate work.  I can’t wait to explore the possibilities this network could have!

Moving on to creativity, we were assigned the task of creating a computer game. This was extremely daunting for me because most of what I know about the computer comes from Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.  I downloaded Scratch for my computer, and before class on Thursday, I tried it out.  For the life of me I could not figure out how to switch between the little characters or make them do all the motions in a row.  I fiddled with the software for a couple hours and eventually gave up and decided to wait a little while and come back to it.

I’m glad I took a break because Isat down today with a clear head and I was finally able to figure it out.  The tutorials online seemed like they would provide a good introduction to the program, but I wasn’t able to grasp the concepts of Scratch until I played around with it myself.  Experimentation turned out to be the best way for me to learn how to use Scratch.  I made a Scratch of the different parts of dramatic plays: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  I made a background for the scratches to sit on, and I was able to animate them so that when you click on them, they tell you what each term means.  I won’t lie, I was a little proud of myself.  It may not be the best game or program but I did it!  Here’s a link to my game: 

When coming up with a topic, I tried to think what information is important for students in an English class to know.  The SOL for this game comes from Virginia’s Grade 9 standards:

9.4 The student will read, comprehend, and analyze a variety of literary texts including
narratives, narrative nonfiction, poetry, and drama. (“ ,” 2011)

Students need to understand the components of a dramatic work so that they understand what order the events go in and how each component affects the others.  Play structure can also be applied to other kinds of literature, like novels (both fiction and non-fiction).  Most stories function with the components covered in my Scratch game.  I had to do a little research to remind myself of the definitions of each component.  After finding these using a Google search, I plugged them into the game.

I think that Scratch could be a good tool for elementary classrooms, but I would prefer using something like Animoto for the secondary classes.  While Scratch can be fun and interactive for students just starting to learn how to use computer programs and are learning the basics of a subject area, I think that my students might feel pandered to if the Scratch game is too easy or simple.  Maybe after playing around with it more, I’ll be able to figure out a way to incorporate it into a high school English class, but for the moment, I think that Scratch would be a perfect tool for K-5th graders.

References:   (2011). Retrieved from



Can I Use That?

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

As mentioned in our readings this week, sometimes it is hard to determine what online material can be dropped into a PowerPoint or a video.  “Information that is at your fingertips is often believed to have no copyright laws protecting it because it is accessible and it is found online” (Coffman 2013).  Usually, all you have to do is right-click, and you can choose from options that prompt you to save the image or copy the image for later use.  The simplicity of it can be tempting, and we usually don’t think twice before using anything we find on Google Images.  I know that most of the PowerPoints I have saved and used for classes are full of images I found online, but after fixing my search options on Google and by looking at other sites, it turns out that finding reusable sources is easier than I expected.

One source that I particularly liked from Dr. Coffman’s suggestions was the Multicolr site, which allows you to search by color.  You can pick up to five colors, and there are hundreds of usable images right at your fingertips.  I enjoyed using this site, and found it to be not only useful, but fun!  I can imagine using this site when creating PowerPoint presentations. I like using color schemes and having everything match in my presentations, so this site allows me to search for images that are the exact colors I need.

I was also able to find free, usable pictures on Morgue File.  As assigned for this post, I was able to find a picture of an adorable, amusing cat:

tigger cat

Uploaded from Morgue File

While this website didn’t have as many options to choose from as, say, Google Images would, this site was easy to use and I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I could download the image legally.  I checked out the license for this image and found that I was free to:

  • Remix – to adapt the work.
  • Commercial – to use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Without Attribution – to use without attributing the original author.(“Morgue file”)

I would not, however be able to use the image in the following ways:

  • Stand alone basis – You can not sell, license, sublicense, rent, transfer or distribute this image exactly as it is without alteration.
  • Ownership – You may not claim ownership of this image in its original state. (“Morgue file”)

I think that these restrictions are perfectly fair, and I can do a lot with the image without going against the license.  Like Dr. Coffman wrote, “Just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean that it’s OK for you to reuse for your own creations” (Coffman, 2013).  We often don’t consider this because copy/paste is supposedly easier, but other search engines and settings prove that no more time or energy is wasted looking at free-use sites than Google Images.

As teachers, it is our responsibility to model good behavior for our students.  It used to be that we only had to worry about being good citizens, treating others fairly, or teaching students about plagiarism.  Our work is really cut out for us now because in the Internet Age, we have to teach them about Fair Use, about the reliability of sources, and about the ways in which the Internet can both help and hinder them.  These students have grown up with the Internet, and they think that they are already more proficient in it than we are.  In some ways that is true, but a teenager isn’t necessarily going to worry about whether the song or video he is downloading is illegal.  It is part of our job to provide our students with a safe learning environment, and teaching our students about copyright is one way to ensure that they are putting effort into their work and that they are using the Internet safely.

A good resource for teachers to post in their classroom or pass out as a handout is the Can I Use It? flowchart provided by Dr. Coffman (NCTE, 2007).  This chart is an easy way for students (and teachers) to figure out what they can use from online.  It also serves to show students that there is no excuse not to think about what materials they can use online.  By showing them how simple it is to check licenses, or to cite their sources, we put the responsibility on the students to pay attention to where they are getting images and text.


Morgue file. (n.d.). Retrieved from

NCTE. (2007). Retrieved from              

Coffman, T. (2013). Week 3 reflection blog post: Copyright. Unpublished raw data, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA, , Available from Canvas. Retrieved from


How Does Technology Fit into the Classroom?

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Gabrielle Kuhn, INDT 501-01

It seems like a million years ago that I was in 5th grade sitting in computer class being taught how to type without looking at the keyboard.  Since then, I am proud to say that my typing skills have improved, but the world of technology and computer skills is still confusing to me.  When I was in school, we barely had whiteboards, and it wasn’t until high school that teachers used PowerPoint presentations instead of writing notes on the blackboard.  Gone are the days when to research a topic, you had to head to your friendly neighborhood library and scour the shelves for books on killer whales or Neptune.  Now all you have to do is “google” it, a term that has made its way into Websters dictionary.

Even now as I go to practicum, there seem to be SmartBoards popping up everywhere.  It’s clear though that not all the teachers fully understand how to use these boards.  I don’t even know how to use them.  These teachers and myself understand SmartBoards only as far as using it as a projector.  In my own experience, I have used it to put up PowerPoints, but other than that, I have very little experience.  From what I can gather from the Technology Integration Matrix, only using the SmartBoard for a PowerPoint does not engage the students, but they are instead passive observers.  On the matrix, an interactive white board may belong in the Adoption Level of the matrix, because the teacher is choosing how to present the information, whether it be in videos, Google Maps, or other types of presentations. From what I’ve seen in tutorials, SmartBoards can be amazing tools, and I hope I can gain more experience using them in new ways before I start teaching.

Looking at the Technology Integration Matrix, I have found some interesting ideas for high school language arts, which is my subject area.  I liked the idea of a Collaborative-Adaptation activity like the Poetry Exploration lesson.  The students can learn how to use the Internet in the most effective ways, learning how to figure out which information is trustworthy.  Corresponding with authors gives them the opportunity to reach outside the classroom and apply what they are learning in a real world context.  Finally, using multimedia or movies to visualize and explain poems can give students the freedom to be creative and explore the ways in which they can use media to depict and transfer information.  Lessons like Poetry Exploration seem simple, but incorporate many different kinds of tasks so that the students are creating a well-rounded and well-researched project.

I am a little skeptical about the lesson plan called Multimedia Study Guide.  Students would be able to record lessons using laptops and smartphones.  While I can understand using school laptops to take notes then upload them for future use, the idea of using smartphones doesn’t seem too helpful.  In my practicum classrooms, I have seen teachers allow students to use smartphones “only to take notes,” but this inevitably leads to students texting instead.  The smartphone is too distracting, in my opinion.

I have seen some good uses of technology in the classroom, however.  One example is a teacher who had her students write stories, and then use a software to illustrate them in slides and add their own voice to narrate the story.  I believe this is an example of Active-Adoption on the part of the teacher, who, as described in the matrix, “controls the type of technology and how it is used. The teacher may be pacing the students through a project, making sure that they each complete each step in the same sequence with the same tool.”  The projects are regulated by the teacher, but the students still have the opportunity to be creative with their stories and illustrations.

I can’t wait to get started learning about new tools and programs for the classroom.  The world is changing and information is changing, and I think that students are going to be more engaged if they are using the same skills they learn in the classroom at home at their own computer.